On the afternoon of June 30, 2019, Kevin Durant posted on Instagram that he was leaving the Golden State Warriors. The next day, Kyrie Irving officially announced that he was leaving the Boston Celtics in unrestricted free agency.
Destination for both: Brooklyn.
Of course, the NBA is hilarious. Durant and Irving are considered two of the top 10 players in the league. Probably the top five.
Now, they are united to forge a so-called superteam and possible championship from a lone Nets team living in the shadow of the New York Knicks, despite a number of postseason streaks. Ten years of frustration.
It should only be a matter of time before Brooklyn gets to the Finals, let alone wins it.
And, in turn, there are big questions about what everyone leaves behind. Golden State’s roster is littered with aging role players and an injured Klay Thompson. Boston has a bunch of promising young players but no leaders — just two years ago, the Celtics traded three players and three draft picks to Cleveland for Irving.
It was a dark day for both teams.
Well, an interesting thing happened on the way to the Brooklyn dynasty and rebuilding the Celtics and Warriors.
The Nets won a shocking playoff series in three seasons, beset by injuries, vaccine debates and drama.
Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors host Boston in Game 1 of the Finals on Thursday (9 p.m. ET).
The reasons are myriad, but you can’t blame both teams for enjoying a bit of schadenfreude when it happened.
This really isn’t about mocking KD, Irving or the Nets. These Finals are actually an old — and often unfairly mocked — story of an NBA maxim.
“Players and coaches alone don’t win championships; organizations win championships.”
That was the late Jerry Krause, general manager of the 1990 Chicago Bulls under Michael Jordan. The idea infuriated and inspired MJ, but Krause’s theory, though awkwardly expressed, was correct.
Every team has some level of concern when star players leave. Some fans may even have panicked.
In the offices of the Warriors and Celtics, there is determination.
“We took a risk … I’ll never regret it,” then-general manager Danny Ainge said of trading so many assets for Carey. “…you just move on to the next transaction.”
Angie didn’t panic. No one on the Celtics did that. They just stuck with the plan and built around the young talent they’ve drafted to support Irving. Maybe Kyrie went to Brooklyn to play with Durant’s superstar, but he either didn’t know or didn’t care what he left behind.
Among them are Jayson Tatum (23), Robert Williams (24), Jaylen Brown (25) and Marcus Smart (27). Even with a rocky start to the 2021-22 season, the Celtics front office, now led by former head coach Brad Stevens, has not changed its plans. Tatum became a superstar. Smart is the Defensive Player of the Year.
Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers admitted he was “sad” when Durant left. Still, he’s not malicious, while continuing the team’s tradition of strong draft picks.
The Warriors filled the holes around the core of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and the now-rehabilitated Thompson. He drafted Jordan Poole in 2019 and traded for Andrew Wiggins and future first-round pick Jonathan Cuminga. All three players are now essential players.
In those playoffs, six of Golden State’s top eight contributors (including big man Kevin Looney) were drafted by the team. No one is higher than seventh overall. The Golden State Warriors’ average draft pick is 19.6.
The Warriors are older and more experienced — 123 Finals games, Boston’s collective zero — but both clubs are now poised to be contenders for years to come. They are talented, well-trained, and represent a well-run franchise.
They are the antithesis of the superteam concept, which seems to take root in the NBA, with mixed results.
After all, Milwaukee, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo (the star the Bucks drafted with the 15th overall pick), won all championships last year.
And now, it’s either a reboot of the Warriors dynasty or the start of a potential new Celtics dynasty this year.
One of those teams would win a championship, and in just three seasons they lost their seemingly irreplaceable talent and just shrugged.